Youth, talent are the themes for Sacred Heart lacrosse

Convent of the Sacred Heart senior captain Colleen O'Neill works on a drill during Tuesday's practice at the turf field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Convent of the Sacred Heart senior captain Colleen O’Neill works on a drill during Tuesday’s practice at the turf field. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Despite the loss of a plethora of talented athletes, the Convent of the Sacred Heart lacrosse team will still have the same high expectations this season.

“I see a lot of young talent this year,” CSH head coach Courtney DePeter said. “Last year we graduated eight seniors and especially our goalie, but this is also the first time that I have taken so many freshmen on the varsity roster. We have six freshman on this team. We are a young team, but I also think we are very athletic, have a lot of spirit and have a bunch of girls that are working really hard to get better every day. We are going to start out young, but when we get to the end of the season, I think everybody will know what’s going on.”

This year, senior captains Mo Leitner and Colleen O’Neill will lead Sacred Heart.

“It feels great to be a leader on this team,” O’Neill said. “Leadership in the lacrosse program at Sacred Heart is a pretty big deal and I have been here since freshman year looking up to the captains. It means a lot to be the person that the freshmen look up to this year.”

Both have been on the varsity squad since freshman year and both will be playing the midfield position this year.

“It feels awesome being a leader on this team,” Leitner said. “Being on the team for four years, I have seen a lot of leaders on the team that were awesome. Now that it’s Colleen, and myself it’s great that I was able to get some those leadership skills from past captains and add to that this year. This is a really great team that has bonded a lot already.”

“I expect great leadership and both know what it’s like to be a leader on and off the field,” DePeter said. “The girls really look up to them and so far they are doing a great job. I am super excited for them and hope they both stay healthy this season.”

One of the hardest jobs for DePeter and the Tigers will be to replace goalie Maddie Pillari, as the standout netminder graduated last year.

This time around, CSH has two goalies on the roster, as junior Amanda Crowell will be returning from last year’s team. DePeter said that Crowell’s height and her ability to step to the ball are her strengths.

Joining Crowell will be sophomore Elizabeth Considine and DePeter stated that Considine excels at communication and has a vast knowledge of the sport.

“I am excited for Amanda,” DePeter said. “I took her on the team last year so she could learn from Maddie and get ready for this year. I am excited for Amanda and I think the biggest thing will be confidence, being vocal and being comfortable. She’s improving every day. I think Lizzie will do really well learning from Amanda this year.”

Helping protect the goalies will be the Tiger’s defensive unit. Leading the way are the two captains, O’Neill and Leitner.

“We are focused on a team-playing dynamic instead of individual players,” Leitner said. “We are playing as a team, especially on defense. We have already become unified and are working together really well. We are meshing really easily and that’s awesome.”

Joining the duo will be senior Madison Sirabella and Fran Hay.

“I think this team can go pretty far,” O’Neill said. “We have really good chemistry on this team, more than we have had in the past. We play together as a unit. I am confident that it’s going to be a key for us this year. Where I play, I plan on bringing a little fire to the team. I want to set the tone for the players on the team by going really hard right from the start.”

With the loss of all three low defenders for CSH last year due to graduation, DePeter said her defense is rebuilding, however will still be strong and stingy with the open looks at net.

“I think we are playing a lot of man this year,” DePeter said. “We are a quicker team than we have been in the past, so we are looking to be a team that pressures a little more and hopefully could set a few more doubles. Otherwise we are patient on defense, but I want them to be loud and work well as a unit.”

In addition to their time playing defense, Leitner and O’Neill will see a bunch of time at the midfield. Helping them out this season will be a bunch of familiar faces and leading the way will be Kate Burkett, who DePeter said has turned into a top defensive midfielder. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alice Millerchip will be one of the team’s top attack midfielders and will be helped by the speed and aggressive play of Emma Novick.

Another midfielder will be freshman Katie Miller.

“The transition game is going to be huge for us,” DePeter said. “So is having that lacrosse IQ is something we really need. Having this group back at midfield is only going to help because of how strong they are. They know about offsides, who is going and staying and that is good because we want to be a team that passes the ball and finds the open player.”

At the attack this year will be returners Meg Geril and Kate Larkin, but experienced veteran twins Charlotte and Isabelle Jeffrey, as well as newcomers Miller, Haley Horn, Charlie Clark and Alex Foley will try and see some time at the attack.

Despite the youth at the attack and replacing their three athletes at low defense and goalie, DePeter still believes her squad could make noise in the FAA postseason.

“I don’t see why we can’t get back to the FAA championship game, but right now we need to be consistent,” DePeter said. “We need to improve in every game. I want to have the kids know where to go without being told. I want to see things click and play as a team.”

So far so good for Sacred Heart, as they currently have a perfect 2-0 record to start the season. In their most recent game, the Tigers had a dominating performance over Kent School Wednesday afternoon.

Taking a 8-1 lead at the break, the Tigers cruised the rest of the way and came away with the 12-2 victory on its home turf.

CSH was led by the combination of Leitner and Novick, as the duo each finished with two goals and two assists. Hogan added two goals, while O’Neill added one goal and two assists. Larkin, Horn, Miller, Burkett and Clark each finished with one goal apiece.

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